SEED MONEY Credit unions open branches in schools to give students a head start on financial literacy, careers

A good education starts with reading, writing and arithmetic, and, thanks to credit unions, students also learn about loan processing, credit reports and money management.

A good education starts with reading, writing and arithmetic, and, thanks to credit unions, students also learn about loan processing, credit reports and money management.

Since the 1980s, as technology in education began advancing, credit unions nationwide have expanded their charters to include financial literacy as a core part of their community outreach.

Unlike traditional commercial banks, which are typically shareholder-owned companies that provide financial services to the general public, credit unions are nonprofit organizations owned by their members.

With that framework comes an understanding of the needs in a community, such as education, and even establishing branches in public schools to give students direct access to how financial decisions are made.

“There are more than 50 in-school branches in 250 school districts across Pennsylvania, most of which are there to support an in-school financial education curriculum,” said Michael Wishnow, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association in Harrisburg.

Credit unions have supported in-school branches not only to fulfill their charters but also to help young people grow, learn responsibility and put into practice what they learn in the classroom, “all of which helps society across the board,” he said. Tri County Area Federal Credit Union, for example, has branches in Pottsgrove High School and Pottstown High School.

You’ll find branches near where kids typically congregate, such as cafeterias, gyms and main lobbies.

“They’re typically small and look like a student store,” Wishnow said. “They’re staffed by an employee from the credit union and students, who learn a little of everything, from opening an account to pulling credit reports.”

This month, Reading High School will benefit from an in-school branch sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Endwell, N.Y., which expanded into Berks County a few years ago.

The branch will be outside the student cafeteria, accessible only to students and building staff, and will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during lunch periods.

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